Jul 15 2013 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Always Remember Your First

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All the Way, Xander

“All the Way” by Steven S. DeKnight

The Magic Box is ramping up for a big Halloween sale! All the Scoobies are there in costume, and Dawn is looking for opportunities to make off with the small portables. There’s goofing around in progress: Xander’s making pirate noises at kids, Willow’s giving a stereotypically ugly witch a hard time... and Buffy is nobly enduring.

When Spike turns up in the basement, he tries to lure Buffy out on patrol. But Giles points out that if anything’s going to go evilly awry on Halloween night, it’ll probably take ambulatory form and seek them out.

With that, we’re treated to a glimpse of another S6 decoy. This one is an old fellow named Kaltenbach, an Ed Asner type with creeping dementia, whom we’re meant to take as some kind of child-eating “Get off my lawn!” demon. Will it be attack of the scary grandpa tonight in Sunnydale?

While we contemplate that unlikely prospect, we see The Magic Box sale has been a massive success. And everyone’s wiped out from committing so much customer service. The prospect of cleaning up after a busy day leads into a little three-way friction among Giles and WillTara when Willow offers to clean up the shop using magic.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All the Way, Anya, Dawn

Then Xander sees his girlfriend teaching Dawn the dance of capitalist superiority, basically celebrating with the money, and he experiences one of those waves of love, one big enough to finally wash away his wimpage over announcing their engagement.

(This moment has nice edges, this scene of Dawn and Anya having cheerful innocent fun when Dawn has just pinched something from her.)

The gang heads over to Chez Slay to have an impromptu engagement party, and when Willow decorates the house, again using magic, the friction threatens to become an actual WillTara argument until Willow ducks out on it.

Dawn has arranged to do some ducking of her own; she’s going out with Amber Tamblyn! Who is her friend Janice! They are lying to parent figures, and also have found themselves some boys! Teenaged heterosexual mating rituals await our viewing pleasure.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All the Way, Dawn

Sadly, Justin and Zack are vampires.

The kids rush through the preliminaries of teen dating. Justin tries to emanate the right mix of shy and sweet with a dash of sexy hoodlum. They hurl eggs at the neighborhood until arriving at Kaltenbach’s house. Then there’s a ‘dare-ya-dare-ya’ game, and despite the bravado she’s shown up until now, Janice of Sunnydale chickens out on smashing the old man’s pumpkin. It’s Dawn who goes up the scary porch, who grabs the scary jack-o-lantern, and who spazzes bigtime the old man pops out with a boo!

Meanwhile, Giles is apparently trying to make Xander feel as nervous as possible about getting hitched. Will their lives become too stressful if Xander’s never that successful? The tide on that wave of love and confidence in his relationship has started to recede. The terror is starting to roll in. If only he could look forward to an opportunity to put his doubts into words.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All the Way, Xander, Anya

Across town, Kaltenbach invites the kids indoors. The boys, being vampires, are only too happy to wander into a septuagenarian’s mancave. The girls show actual courage by going in. All because Dawn wants to impress Justin? Probably.

The pressure is still building on Xander as the party talk moves to home ownership, cars, and the spawning of little XandAnylets. He and Buffy flee the scene, and she’s very sweet and supportive right up until the moment when she remembers she’s miserable with her lot and decides to bail on the patrol Giles told her not to bother with.

Bad call, Giles.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All the Way

The clock has by now run out for Kaltenbach—he’s harmless after all. Justin claims to have stolen his wallet, the kids all flee the scene. (Actually, he did steal the wallet. He just neglected to mention that he killed and ate its owner.) He and Dawn bond over stealing. By now, the boys are actively considering whether they’re going to go all the way with the girls—by which they mean turning them.

They’re definitely planning to feed off them at the very least. Zack steals a car, and this lets them segue into parking. Dawn gets to wear Justin’s jacket—there’s a little Thriller homage there—and has her first kiss. Janice gets bitten.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All the Way, Dawn

The good news, unless you’re really down on Dawn, is that by now the Scoobies know the girls have pulled a fast one, and are searching for them.

WillTara hit the Bronze. Their earlier argument had petered out, but when Willow proposes a risky Dawn-hunting spell, it flares up again, big time. She commits a major relationship no-no by telling Tara to shut up. Don’t do that, Willow.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All the Way, Tara

Spuffy and Giles end up at Lovers Lane with what turns out to be at least six or ten vampires. They’ve decided they’re over the whole taking Halloween off thing. Too bad for them. Giles takes out Zack very handily indeed. Spuffy gets all the rest, except for Justin himself. He chases Dawn through the woods and is as sweet to her as a would-be predator possibly can be. Which gets him nowhere, since she’s picked up a crossbow bolt and—even though they agree they really do like each other quite a lot—runs him through.

(The Buffy half of Spuffy might take a lesson here, if she were truly wise to her own self-interest.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All the Way, Dawn

If the BtVS gang were explicitly composed like a war party in the Dungeons and Dragons vein—Giles as cleric, WillTara as mages, Xander, Buffy and Spike as fighters, then Dawn would do well to put her meager pool of experience points into some actual thief skills. She’s got a talent, you’ve got to admit, for going unnoticed at key moments. I mean, there’s a whole fight sparked in that parking lot when the troops come barging in to save her. And yet she flees the scene and nobody really twigs.

She’s larcenous. There’s the actual stealing and the fact that she has no problem with same. Here in “All the Way” she sneaks the crossbow bolt past her undead would-be killer at a crucial moment. Was it up his jacket sleeve? I don’t know, but the fact that she did it argues that she’s got the makings of a decent sleight of hand roll.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All the Way, Spike, Giles

If Dawn were to have the opportunity to develop this talent, to learn to pick locks and subvert security systems and screw over surveillance cameras, it could be really useful. Especially if another Mayor-type villain turned up on the Sunnydale scene.

Now, of course, nobody’s going to tell the baby of the team to go out and learn to become the Pink Panther. And for all I know they go in this direction in the comic series (You have all realized by now that I haven’t read S8 and S9, right? And what you’ve had to say about these stories pretty much dissuades me from wanting to.) But she’s got the talent, the temperament, and they’ve got the niche, is what I’m saying.

That aside, what is there to say about about Dawn’s Night Off?

We’re into a serious wheel-spinner here, to use Gardner’s term—we get the little bit of memory-abuse perpetrated by Willow on Tara, Giles’ rising disquiet over the state of the Buffy, and a bit of time for the gang to assimilate news of XandAnya’s engagement.

In retrospect, of course, we see that Willow has taken that next step forward when she realizes that it’s not just Giles but also Tara who’s concerned about her magic use—and when she basically decides: Too Bad! But we’re not meant to see that.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All the Way, Willow

And the Trio are out of sight, too. One can easily imagine that they’re out trick or treating.

But I bet few of you cares too deeply about “All the Way,” because this episode is really just an opening act, a little appetizer to lead us into next week.

Next: Sing out Loud, Sing out Strong!

A.M. Dellamonica has tons of fiction up here on! Her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies,’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales. (Watch for the second Gale, story too—“The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”!)

Or if you like, check out her sexy novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
It's a pencil not a crossbow bolt.
Chris Nelly
2. Aeryl
And having played the Buffy RPG, I can tell you that Dawn levels somewhat like HS-era Willow, all her points in Intelligence, Research, and Dead Languages. (College era Willow is all Magic & Sorcery)
Chris Long
3. radynski
Color me disappointed to find out that this re-watch won't include the comic book seasons. I was looking forward to that.
Marty Beck
4. martytargaryen
Great D&D analogy.

I have not read the comics (yet) either, and am on the fence, based on what I've read about them.

It hasn't occurred to me until just now, but I am retroactively very disappointed that the trio didn't partake in a James Bond canticle in rounds. Or...something.
Marie Veek
5. SlackerSpice
And thus begins the "Wow, Willow can be a really shitty person, sometimes" phase...
Alyx Dellamonica
6. AMDellamonica
Aeryl--pencil makes more sense! I couldn't see it clearly, and the transcript said crossbow bolt. Not that this is any good excuse.

Slacker--yes. Lots of petty Willow badness ahead, along with the major stuff.
Marty Beck
7. martytargaryen
@5 - Yep, and I've seen this in real life, too, which is why I appreciated S6 more than most people. I hate the drug analogy later on, but I have seen intrinsicly good people lose their way and do things that cross the line.
Think Citizen Kane with Black Magic replacing political power.
8. Ithilanor
I'm fond of this episode. It's a nice funny story that gives Dawn some character development and really kicks the Willow-Tara arc into gear. I agree with @6, 7; while the hamfisted drug metaphor that develops later is bad, the basic idea is good, and well-executed early on.
9. Dianthus
I've seen this ep summed up as let's briefly revisit Bangel, with Dawn instead. It might've been on TWOP. I certainly wouldn't call it a favorite of mine.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Willow has power and abuses it. Buffy has power (over Spike) and abuses it. The dark side of Girl Power, if you will.
Alyx, please tell me you're not suggesting what it seems you're suggesting here:
(The Buffy half of Spuffy might take a lesson here, if she were truly wise to her own self-interest.)
It's far too late for that. Besides, if she were truly wise to her own best interest, she wouldn't be Buffy.

Thought I'd include this, as it's getting more relevant:
It's an interesting article, but it only goes so far. There is no mention whatsoever of Buffy's misogyny, which could've been an article in it's own right.
10. Gardner Dozois
Yes, definitely a wheel-spinner, except for little bits of character foreshadowing, like the developing Willow-Tara conflict. Was there really anybody who didn't know the first time around that the Scary Old Man was going to be a decoy, or that Dawn's boyfriend was going to turn out to be a vampire, or that Dawn WASN'T going to get eaten? A pleasant but innocuous episode that could be dropped out of the season without losing much, although, being one of those who like Dawn, I was pleased to see her taking some initative in saving her own life; shows shrewdness and courage.

Everything I've heard here makes me NOT want to read the comics, and I'm pretty sure that I never will. For me, the show is the show, and everything outside of that compass doesn't count.
11. Dianthus
Not reading the comics is definitely the better choice. It's too late for me, but if I can save others, well...every cloud has a silver lining.

12. LurkerWithout
While the Dark Horse comics definitely have some low points (I tapped out at the start of the final arc for Season 8) I would still recomend at least the "Wolves at the Gates" arc/collection. Which is the one with Dracula, Giant-Size Dawn and Buffy the Bisexual...
Rob Rater
13. Quasarmodo
I thought this ep had some pretty funny moments. Like when Buffy is coming down on Dawn for parking with a boy she barely knew, and vampire Justin's like "We've seen each other at parties."
Emma Rosloff
14. emmarosloff
Love the bit between Buffy and Spike in the basement, where she thinks he's asking her to sleep with him and he clarifies that he's just asking if she wants to patrol. It's just great that Buffy is the one who jumps to that conclusion; it's a clear indicator that it's on her mind. She leaves, shaking her head and saying to herself: "He was so much easier to talk to when he was trying to kill me." That always gives me a good laugh.

And seeing the Scoobies reactions to XandAnya's engagement is as telling as anything else -- namely that none of them seem to think it's a good idea, although they hide it well.

Other than that the episode does play out rather predictably -- no surprise that Dawn ends up on a date with a vampire, nor that she makes it out alive. The only other memorable moment being between Willow and Tara, which always makes me cringe. Willow's abuse is as bad as Tara taking the abuse. You can just tell that Tara loves Willow so much, it verges on worship, and for Willow to take advantage of that is the greatest crime of all.

As for the DnD metaphor... I've always thought of Xander as more of a bard. Not totally inept in a battle, but more prone to talk his way out of things, or in the very least, keep up morale. Keep spirits high. Dawn definitely ends up on the "Watcher Junior" path, as she puts it in S7... the stealing is a phase to get attention, but I think ultimately she's on the slow track to being a wizard of sorts. Maybe a rogue/wizard cross class. I've never read the comics, so I don't know what direction she takes in them, but in my own mind, that's how I see her.
Constance Sublette
15. Zorra
It was a boring ep, despite the small pointers toward where we will go.

Partly it's because Dawn is boring.

IMO only, of course!
16. Dianthus
@12. Honestly, if I sat down and made a list of what are IMO the most unfortunate egregious contemptible things I really hate about the comics, giant robot Dawnie with a freakin' tail would be three of them!

@14. Dawnie is currently fading out of existence w/o magic to sustain her. Everyone's forgetting her (even Spike and Buffy) which doesn't make a lot of sense this late in the game. I can understand the fake memories fading, but they've all had time to make real memories, so WTF?
Also, too, Spike gets the idea of recording his memories of Dawn, but it doesn't take. Why? Tape recorders work on science, not magic, and there's still plenty of science. I can practically feel my IQ dropping with every issue.
Slightly OT: I once played a bard in a D&D game. For me, it was boring as f*ck. Much better to be a fighting monk!
Alyx Dellamonica
17. AMDellamonica

No, I'm not seriously suggesting Buffy run Spike through. He is helpless, as far as she knows, and he is a sometimes-helpful part of the team. But not getting romantic might have been better for them both.

You've mentioned Buffy's misogyny several times and I have to admit I'm confused. Self-loathing I completely buy, but hatred of women?
18. Dianthus
@17. Whedon's take on misogyny (as I understand it from reading one of his old posts on Whedonesque) is this: It's comprised of three parts.
1. self-loathing
2. projection
3. envy
Buffy will display all of these characteristics towards Spike during the sexual phase of their relationship, especially in the alley scene in Dead Things.
In addition, you've got the gender-role reversal btwn them. Spike is, in essence, the girl in their relationship. He is the supportive, intuitive one who wants to talk about feelings. Buffy is the emotionally distant one who doesn't want to talk, and she is obviously uncomfortable with the feelings she has for him. It's understandable, to an extent, but (as Tara will point out to her) Spike has done good things.
Buffy is the "bad boyfriend" here, not Spike. As I've said previously, Spike is Buffy's whore. Another trope Spike fills in that sense is the Hooker With A Heart of Gold.
Sorry I haven't clarified my position before now. I'd been wondering when and how best to raise this point. I don't know if you can still read that post or not, given how long it's been.
Chris Nelly
19. Aeryl
Without knowing when this article was published I can't help, but all of Joss' posts are tagged as such on whedonesque, and you can scroll through them here.
20. Dianthus
@19. Thanks for the link.

I understand that Whedon has also referred to Spike as the perfect 'girl' for Angel. Whatever he's been smoking, does that mean it's really good sh!t, or really bad sh!t? The way Whedon's mind kinda scares me sometimes.
21. build6
the main thing that sticks with me for this episode are 2 Emma Caulfield moments -


"can I try it on?"
"oh absolutely not"


her throwing money (at Dawn) after the announcement, i.e. love is more important to her than money
Alyx Dellamonica
22. AMDellamonica
Dianthus-It still seems like a weird word choice to me, but I see where you're going with it now. You're not saying Buffy has a generalized hatred of either women or men, but that her behavior to Spike has all the features of misogyny?

Build6--Emma Caulfield is frequently the shiny bright source of cheer in some of these dark and woeful episodes.
23. Dianthus
@22. Exactly. Based on Whedon's own definition of misogyny, Buffy's behavior and attitude towards Spike qualifies as such. She's the hater, primarily as a result (IMO) of the trauma she's suffered.
I do know what it means;-)
I've seen this same argument applied to homophobia.
I s'pose the thinking was switching the gender-roles would highlight the behavior, otherwise we'd see it as just par for the course? Yet we can recognize Warren's behavior for what it is. I dunno.
Chris Nelly
24. Aeryl
Whedon's kinda notorious for this gender switching thing, where he takes typical tropes based on one gender, and flips them. He fridges guys, makes women abusive, and yeah, I think it's an attempt to call attention to it. People's willingness to make excuses for Buffy, because we liked her, because she's done good things, because she's been through so much, draw a real world parallel with how outsiders can be willing to excuse the abuse done by men they know, because "he's a good father", "he's such a nice person", "he loves her so much, he'd never do such a thing" or "he's been under a lot of stress".
25. Dianthus
@24. No doubt that's part of it. My problem with this is that it seems like ME is excusing her behavior (to an extent) as well. As I said before, other 'bad boyfriends' were presented to us as monsters who needed to be put down. Domestic abuse is domestic abuse, dammit!
Chris Nelly
26. Aeryl
I won't say that it succeeded, no.
Alyx Dellamonica
27. AMDellamonica
Yes, if we don't hold Buffy to some kind of double standard, her treatment of Spike is deeply troublesome.
28. Gardner Dozois
On the other hand, before being chipped, Spike was a merciless killer who slaughtered thousands of people over the years and who spent the first several years of their own association trying hard to kill Buffy in any way that he could. You'd have to imagine that that would put a skewing factor on their relationship, and that the knowledge that he's an "evil, soulless thing," as she points out several times, and that distaste at what he is is (or was) would fill her with guilt and shame at the fact that she feels desire for him, and her reaction against that might prompt her treatment of him; she's punishing him to punish herself. There would probably also be a lingering trace of fear, considering how many times he's tried to kill her and nearly succeeded, and that would color things between them as well.

Imagine if Lex Luthor and Superman became a sexual couple--all that history would be there in bed with them whether they wanted it to be or not.
Chris Nelly
29. Aeryl
Gardner, I am sure someone, somewhere has imagined it.
31. Gardner Dozois
Think about it, though. Buffy is having sex with one of her bitterest and most dangerous enemies, someone who's physically assulted her and tried to kill her numerous times, someone she herself has tried to kill. It's not surprising that there's a weird edge to their relationship.
Chris Nelly
32. Aeryl
I completely agree, slash pairings amuse me.
33. Dianthus
@Alyx - Part of it is the old 'embracing your Inner Darkness' business. Or, your Inner Slayer in Buffy's case. It's a real struggle for her. I think that's due in part to a woeful lack of self-awareness.

@Gardner - it's definitely complicated by their history, no question. I'm sure there are those who'd argue that Spike deserved every slight, every blow, and then some. She doesn't even have to demonize him, 'cuz he's already a demon. He's certainly the only one who could take what she's capable of dishing out physically. She couldn't lash out at the others the way she lashes out at Spike.
I'm not saying I'm entirely without sympathy for Buffy, either. She is suffering, and she already hates her life and the wrongness of it all. How much worse must it seem that Spike is the only one she can stand, the only one who can really get thru to her? Never mind that he had nothing to do with her current condition; that he understands her so well; that he is, slowly, changing for the better.
The problem is (IMO) that due to her suffering, she can only see the negative aspects of this and what it says about her. In my enirely academic understanding of dysfunctional relationships, the abuser does not feel worthy of love. Ergo, anyone who loves them must be wrong to do so.
Also, Spike exacerbates the situation by telling her she came back wrong. The thing is, in a sense, he's correct. Not that there's actually anything wrong with her per se, but the process of her return was wrong. So in the end we see her emerge from a grave once more, the right way (as it were), and then she's fine.
There's her history with Angel, too. She's very invested in the idea that soulless demons are incapable of love. Otherwise, why couldn't Angel still love her?
However, when you look at their relationship in Spiral or The Gift, or even the first part of s6, she's at least treating him with a certain amount of respect. It's only once the sexual phase of their relationship starts that everything really goes to cr*p.
Alyx Dellamonica
34. AMDellamonica
Sex does indeed change the dynamics. And sex with an avowed enemy, as Gardner points out, is never going to be hearts and puppies.

I think we could argue too that the only real power imbalance between Buffy and Spike once he can hit her again (oh, joy!) is that he's in love with her. He's not intimidated by her in the slightest.
35. Dianthus
@34. Agreed. However, he hasn't really been her enemy in some time. He has become, instead, an ally; someone she can count on. Someone she trusts. She doesn't have to hold back with him, and I think that's important. He can keep up with her, unlike Riley or Parker, and he sees her for who/what she really is, unlike Angel.
Speaking of...if I wanted hearts and puppies, I'd still be shipping Bangel. I like the more complicated and nuanced Spuffy relationship. We probably wouldn't be discussing it 10 yrs on if it were anything less.OTOH, I hold Buffy to a higher standard (fair or not) because she's a hero, because she has treated Spike "like a man" and not a thing. Faith's the use 'em and lose 'em Slayer. Complications? Sure. Verbal and physical abuse? Not so much.
Well, they showed us in Triangle that Spike's not quite as strong as Buffy (she can lift Olaf's hammer, he can't), but otherwise, yeah. Buffy has power over Spike 'cuz he loves her. Power she misuses, power she might not even recognize, power she could've used for good, if she weren't so messed up herself. She's in a bad place. I get that.
36. build6
@35 - "someone she can count on" - still, *only* because of the chip though. there was a time when they were moving towards "Spike is ok" and then he does quite a lot of brutal things to try to get the chip out. It's not-entirely-unreasonable to be not-entirely-trusting. and Buffy has experienced one vampire being all lovey-dovey and then one single thing changes and Jennifer Carpenter dies (if she hadn't, Giles would've never considered leaving for England, eh?)
37. Dianthus
Not "only" because of the chip, tho'. The chip is about behavior modification. Spike, in response, is modifying his behavior. He is undergoing legitimate, if incremental, changes. What's more, he didn't even have the chip when he offered to help her get Giles back and defeat Angelus. That was just good old fashioned self-interest.

Alyx, going back to something you said earlier. Buffy wasn't intimidated by Angelus, either. Sorry, but I don't see how that matters.

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